CENTENNIAL RETAILER: Caring and community keeps Cowart Drug Co. going for 100 years

When a business has been serving its city in the same way in the same building for 100 years, the whole community celebrates.

Pharmacist Kacie White has owned the 100-year-old Cowart Drug Co. since 2014, but she has worked at the store since she was 15.

When I realized the store was going to be 100 while I was the owner, I knew we were going to have a BIG celebration,” said Kacie White, only the fourth owner of Cowart Drug Co. in a century of doing business. True to her word, the Sept. 12 centennial celebration included ax throwing, vintage cars, a crazy hair station, giveaways and door prizes. Hundreds from Calera and surrounding communities came out for the outdoor event.

Cecil Cowart

A pharmacy has always operated in the two-story building at 8320 U.S. 31, which was built in 1884-85. Originally, the brick and concrete structure on Calera’s main street housed the Bondurant and Burke Drug Store with a boarding house upstairs. In 1920, Cecil Cowart founded the pharmacy that carries his name and continues to operate in the same space today.

In 1972, after 52 years at the helm, Cecil passed the business to his son, Steve. The second-generation owner of Cowart Drug Co. sat under a tent behind a framed portrait of his late father at the centennial event. “I watched you grow up,” Steve told Kacie, who, along with the store’s third owner, Theresa Harris, was on hand for photos and to greet celebrants. Sadly, Steve died Nov. 1 at the age of 94.

Like many in the Shelby County community, Steve and Theresa knew Kacie since she was a child. Her family has patronized the drug store her whole life.

As part of a fourth-grade school project about career dreams, Kacie interviewed Theresa, who had bought the pharmacy from the Cowart family in 1993. In that interview, Kacie declared she wanted to be a pharmacist one day and work at Cowart Drugs. On the spot, Theresa offered to hire Kacie when she was old enough to work.

At age 15, Kacie became a cashier at the pharmacy. “I’ve grown up in this drug store,” she said.

By the time Kacie was an undergraduate at Troy University, she had been promoted to pharmacy technician, working summers and holidays. When Kacie graduated from the McWhorter School of Pharmacy at Samford University, Theresa was ready to retire and wanted to sell the store to someone local, rather than a chain. Kasey worked alongside her mentor for a year, and then bought the business in 2014.

Cowart Drug Co. “made it to 100 years, because we love our people,” said Theresa. While she and Kacie aren’t related to the family that founded the business, “We’re all like family,” she added.

To Kacie, the key to the store’s longevity is “we truly care about our patients. Our customers are known on a first-name basis, they are not a number to us.”

Independent pharmacy Cowart Drug Co. at 8320 U.S. 31, the main street of downtown Calera, is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays.

Story by Nancy King Dennis
Photos by Jackie Batson and Amy Dennis

This article first appeared on Page 6
of the November 2020 Alabama Retailer

See Also Alabama Retail Honors Cowart Drugs for 100 Years in Business
Nov. 16, 2020, News Release